Via Ed Kilgore, Robert Rizzuto at MassLive.com:
… On Thursday, as Senator Warren got the opportunity to question regulators at her first Senate Banking Committee hearing, she bluntly asked “When did you last take… a large financial institution, a Wall Street bank, to trial?”
After much conjecture and discussion, the answer from Securities and Exchange Commission regulators was that no banks have actually been taken to trial despite the wrongdoings that led to the financial collapse of 2008….
Warren, a bankruptcy law expert who served as the chair of the Congressional oversight panel for the Wall Street bailouts, said that big banks who take part in illegal activities to bring in big money will never be compliant with the law unless there are actual prosecutions instead of just fines.
“If they can break the law and drag in billions in profits and then turn around and settle, paying out of those profits, they don’t have much incentive following the law,” Warren said. “It’s also the case that every time there’s a settlement and not a trial, we don’t have those days and days and days of testimony about what those financial institutions were up to.”
Warren went on to lambaste the SEC officials for not pursuing criminal prosecutions, drawing the comparison between them and then local prosecutors who go after average citizens for crimes that are arguably less egregious than almost sinking the United States economy.
“There are district attorneys and U.S. attorneys who are out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it,” Warren said. “I’ve very concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial’ and that just seems wrong to me.”…
NYMag‘s Kevin Reese adds more context:
… Even though Wall Street bankers weren’t the target of Warren’s interrogation yesterday — the regulators who oversee them were — the financial industry is apparently freaking out about the hearing, on the theory that it augurs a tough road for them ahead in dealing with Warren as a senator. Ben White [warning: Politico] got some quotes from scared financial industry executives who called her performance “shameless grandstanding” and accused her of competing with Ted Cruz for the title of “most extreme fringe freshman senator.”
Which raises the question: Are these people kidding?
Elizabeth Warren did not end up in the Senate despite taking a hard-line approach to Wall Street; she was elected almost entirely because of it. I’d wager that people outside Massachusetts who donated money to Warren’s campaign or otherwise supported her run for office can’t tell you anything about her political platform except that she is tough on Wall Street.
Sure, there was always the possibility that she would mellow out once elected. Keep her head down, be a workhorse instead of a show pony, and all of that. But that was always wishful thinking from the financial industry and its lobbyists. As any web editor with access to traffic stats could tell you, people love when Warren squares off on Wall Street. It delights them, the sight of a bespectacled middle-aged professor absolutely hammering suit-clad financiers, refusing to slip into the numbing jargon of the industry (note, in the video, how she translates Tom Curry’s “enforcement actions” back into “settlements,” a concept more normal people can immediately understand), and generally being possessed of enough specific industry knowledge that she is impossible to steamroll with technicalities….
[S]he is also talking to Wall Street in a way it’s not used to hearing from elected officials, and it’s making her a rising star in the Democratic Party. Bankers should probably stop griping, and start getting used to it.